It’s been nearly a week since a tragic accident on Roosevelt Boulevard claimed the lives of a mother and three of her four young children. Despite vocal support for Boulevard safety in the past, Mayor Michael Nutter has yet to provide comment on the incident or the City’s plans for preventing future tragic accidents on one of the country’s most dangerous roads.
Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald said the Streets Department may be considering some new safety measures, but they cannot be discussed at this time.
“The Streets Department is always looking to improve traffic safety. What has been implemented has helped but there’s always more that can be done in a very complicated traffic pattern that is Roosevelt Blvd,” McDonald said.
“The Streets Department and its partners on the Boulevard Safety Committee are considering other measures to improve safety. I can’t discuss any of those ideas at this point.”
This weekend, Nutter was reportedly out of town, but released a statement regarding the death of Jabriel O’Connor, a 7-year-old who died after nearly drowning in the Cobb’s Creek Recreation Center pool.
"It is with the deepest sadness that I am reporting that Jabriel O'Connor passed away yesterday," said Nutter in a statement released on Sunday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Jabriel's parents, family, friends, and all of the young people present at the Cobb's Creek Recreation Center on Thursday as they grieve. The City will continue to provide support services to Jabriel's family, the camp staff, City employees and community members affected by this tragedy."
Some have questioned the mayor’s silence on the Boulevard accident deaths compared to his swift response to the Cobbs Creek drowning.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz said he has no idea why the mayor hasn't spoken out on the issue yet.
"I really don't know what that’s about except that there are obviously a number of policy issues triggered by these incidents on the Boulevard and it indicates that things need to be done. These are issues we ‘ve been dealing with for several years," Butkovitz said.
"I believe setting speed traps and having more intense police presence is important. People traveling on the Boulevard have to have a sense that they will get caught if they drive recklessly. The lady and her children weren't doing anything wrong. They probably couldn’t even see these cars at the time that they entered the crosswalk. The fact that these drivers weren’t worried about being caught by radar or anything, that’s a crazy system."
Nutter was unavailable for comment.
In a separate incident last week, doctors say an 11-year old is in critical but stable condition at St. Christopher’s Hospital after she was hit while riding her bike near Roosevelt Boulevard and Garland Street on Friday evening.
This accident took place just over a mile from where 28 year-old Samara Selena Banks, 7-month-old Saamir Williams, 23-month-old Saa-Sean and four-year-old Saa-Deem were killed when police say the driver of a 2012 Audi, Khusen Akhmedov, lost control of his car while allegedly street racing with another driver, Ahem “Ahmen” Holloman late last Tuesday night.
Both drivers are facing four counts of homicide by vehicle, third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, simple assault and aggravated assault by vehicle charges.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for the past ten years, PennDOT has been providing the Philadelphia Police Department with $1.9 million in grants to pay police officers to conduct additional traffic enforcement on the Boulevard. Additional police enforcement paid for by the most recent grant of $119,603 is set to expire on Sept. 30.
PennDOT spokesman Gene Blaum says PennDOT is already in discussions about continuing this additional police support beyond the September expiration date.
“PennDOT provides these funds to the police department. These are federal funds that PennDOT receives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” Blaum said.
“PennDOT has received the Philadelphia Police Department’s proposal for the next fiscal year. There is a plan to continue funding additional police enforcement on Roosevelt Boulevard.”